Paul Hoppe was at MoCCA fest selling prints and handcrafted zines. Born in Poland, he grew up in Germany and came to NYC on a DAAD scholarship. (DAAD is the German version of a Fulbright Exchange.) He got his MFA at SVA’s Illustration as Visual Essay program in New York City. Our Kutztown students were impressed by him. Jen Zweiger traded a copy of her very first zine with him. She says,”getting to meet and interact with international artist was a really profound experience.”
Nathan Hurst liked Paul’s advice to “network with a close knit group of trusted friends.” Paul told us how, in his final weeks of grad school at SVA, he and classmate C.M.Butzer realized they might never again have free access to a photo copier. They created and printed the comic anthology Rabid Rabbit which debuted at MoCCA 2005. It was a hit and SVA gave them a mini-grant to keep the zine afloat.
Paul said Rabid Rabbit grew faster than expected. They got submissions from all over the world. “A guy sent stuff from Australia, and we said Wow! Australia, That’s cool! We wrote to him, ‘You know we don’t pay, we aren’t making any money.’ He said that’s cool and so we printed his story, but mostly we were printing our own work.”
I told Paul how I once got a frank rejection note from Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Press in San Fransisco. It said roughly, “Dear Author, Your work has merit; you should publish it yourself. We keep busy publishing books by our friends; try it with your friends! “ Paul said Rabid Rabbit worked on the same basic principle. They knew which classmates were both good artists and dependable, and those are the ones that got in.
Paul is no longer involved with Rabbit Rabid, but he is still friends with his co-founder and co-conspirators. He is working hard on his nifty Beholder zines. He explained the series is “homage to super hero comics of the Copper Age.” Copper? I thought he was kidding. I’d heard of the Golden Age. I remember the Silver Age of the 1950’s and 60’s fondly. It seems there was also Bronze Age (70’s and early 80’s) and Copper Age (late 80’s) for comic books. Who knew?
Paul said his roots are in zines and “that’s what MoCCA is all about.” As he said on his own blog, “Income-wise, illustration prints and my graphic novel Peanut were the heavy hitters, (since they are more expensive). But I also sold more BEHOLDER books than any MoCCA before.”
I remember where I first saw Paul’s work. Nonfiction graphic essays are one of my favorite things. I really enjoyed Syncopated: Anthology of Non-fiction Picto-Essays edited by Brendan Buford. It has lots of NY stories including an 8-page essay by Paul Hoppe on Coney Island.
Paul has done all sorts of illustrations, ranging from editorial to advertising. His work for children’s books is energetic. The Midwest Book Review wrote of Metal Man, “The vibrant drawings of award-winning artist Paul Hoppe practically burst off the page.”
Paul’s latest project is a graphic novel for young adults, Peanut, written by Ayun Halliday. It is about a high school girl who fakes a peanut allergy to make herself more interesting. Publisher’s Weekly praised Halliday and Hoppe’s work, “It’s not easy being both hip and life- affirming, but this team has the secret formula.” The NY Times found elements of his cartooning style “especially brilliant.”
I’m not sure about the cover of Peanut, a photo of a single peanut on a blue field, not even a title! Paul is philosophical, “as an illustrator, sure, I would like my drawing on the cover. But as graphic designer I admit it is quite brilliant. It’s different, eye-catching and stands out in the bookstore. If that gets more people to pick it up, then I love the cover! ”
Paul Hoppe updates his Beholder site with a new page every Monday. Check out cosmicbeholder.blogspot.com Paul warns it is sometimes NSFW. I had to look that up. It means Not Safe For Work. I’m lucky I teach illustration; looking at comics is part of my job.
Sprechen Sie Deutsch?
Speaking of graphic novels, Prof. Lynn Kutch of Kutztown U has created a new site devoted to The German Graphic Novel. Primarily a resource for language teachers who want to introduce cutting-edge German Graphic novels into their courses, it offers illustrated reviews. Graphic novels of all sorts are classified under broad headings: Biography; Literary Adaptations; Horror; Crime; Modern Life. There are links to individual artists, writers, publishers, and in some cases, to German web-comics. Worth a look, even if you don’t read German, to see what is being published in Berlin and elsewhere in Germany.